This week I made a farm cake!
As you know, aside from making lunches, I love to bake! I learned baking from my mum, I can recall standing next to her (on a stool) in the kitchen rolling out pastry for an apple pie or mixing cake batter (and licking the beaters). She used to bake every Friday, and I can still visualise how the baked goods were stored on a plate in the china cabinet under a cover of foil and pinching thin slices of cake when she wasn’t looking (and of course acting very surprised when it got discovered there was much less cake than there should have been) >*<
The bakes were all quite straight forward, marble sponges and lemon cakes, butter cake or apple pie and in the summer we would make no-bake cheesecakes. We didn’t use buttercream or icing/fondant, although sometimes we would have sweetened whipped cream. These were also the kind of cakes that I made during my student and later years, and it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I really discovered the world of cake decorating 🙂
I think it was a Christmas 4 years ago, or better said, the months before that Christmas, that I made my first Christmas cake, using a pre-measured baking kit from the supermarket. The kit came with marzipan/fondant included and also simple tips on how to decorate it. I can’t actually remember what decoration I made, I think something with stars, but anyway, since that moment I have been totally hooked on cake decorating!
There are lots of tutorials on YouTube or blogs and websites, and I have learned a lot from watching and just doing, but recently I have enrolled on a cake decoration course to learn the tips & tricks of the trade. During the 10 week course we will be learning about the different types of icing, using modelling tools, colouring fondant, creating flowers and of course decorating cakes. We didn’t have to bring in an actual cake until this week, as up to now we had been practising on (fondant covered) cake boards but this week our mission was to create a novelty themed cake using the skills learned so far.
We had to prepare the cake before class, and also make the buttercream and any decorations used, but during class we learned how to level and layer a cake (aka torting), to fill and re stack evenly, to crumb coat the cake and how to cover in fondant.
After some deliberation (and input from friends) I decided to make a farm cake and chose green fondant to cover my Madeira cake. A Madeira cake is denser and firmer than a Victoria Sponge so therefore more suitable for covering with heavy fondant. I had never made a Madeira cake before, but mine turned out pretty good with only a slight dome. After slicing that dome off, I turned the cake up side down so that the flat bottom became the top. Because the cake had risen very well and was quite high, I decided to cut it in three layers which I re stacked after filling with green – to match the outside – buttercream and some strawberry jam.
After crumb coating and chilling, I applied a second thin layer of buttercream before attempting to cover the whole cake in fondant. This was rather challenging! The green fondant that I had chosen was very soft and sticky and a nightmare to roll out. It didn’t help that the class room was quite warm so the fondant kept sticking to the counter and I had to use quite a bit of icing sugar. Also, my rolling pin was too short and I had to borrow the one from the tutor, but eventually I managed to cover the cake without too many ripples, bubbles or other fondant disasters.
To turn my very green cake into a farm cake I used brown fondant to make a fence around the cake, with a few flowers and grass tucked in. The fence was made by cutting small strips of thinly rolled paste and attaching these to the cake with some edible glue. I added the wood grain texture and nails with a modeling tool and deliberately made it all a bit wonky looking (in case you’re wondering…). The mud pool for my piggy was also made from brown fondant and I coloured some more paste to create the pool, rocks and a tiny duck. I also attached some flowers to make a field of flowers for the sheep to eat.
I had made the piggies and sheep in the weekend before, using modelling paste as this is firmer and dries up harder. The piggies were a bit of a nightmare as the legs and heads kept falling off and various bits broke off during transport so I had to make some emergency repairs with royal icing.
Unfortunately I didn’t make any photos during any of this because I was way too busy kneading and rolling plus had hands covered in icing sugar, but I will try to write a blog post one day on how I created the pigs and sheep. I especially love the sheep and he has been a big hit with everyone that has seen (and eaten) the cake. And don’t worry, he and his friends did not get eaten!
Below are some photos that I did manage to make before and after, and also some tips on how to cut a cake in slices instead of wedges (although as you can see from the photo this method was only partly used)